Listen to the voice
of hasty decisions in cross-strait affairs
Negotiators from both sides
of the Strait signed agreements on Friday to launch weekend charter flights and
allow Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)
described the meeting as satisfactory and said it was happy to see President Ma
Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) election promise become a reality. The Democratic Progressive
Party (DPP), however, warned that the hasty decision posed a threat to national
security and interests. ‘Taipei Times' reporter Ko Shu-ling talked to DPP
Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Friday about her views and observations on the
cross-strait talks and the Ma administration
Sunday, Jun 15, 2008, Page 3
Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen gestures during an interview
with the Taipei Times on Friday.
Taipei Times: Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) met Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in Beijing on Friday afternoon after a deal was struck on cross-strait weekend charter flights and expanding Chinese tourism in Taiwan. Do you think the agreements should be approved by the legislature?
Tsai Ing-wen: Like a treaty signed with a foreign country, an executive agreement signed with China requires the approval of the legislature.
The problem with the agreements is the negotiation process was not transparent. We do not know who goes where to talk about what, when they go and with whom they talked. So we are worried.
It is a very sensitive issue and concerns Taiwan’s interests, but the negotiation process was not transparent and there is no due process for the legislature to make inquiries.
TT: The DPP has lodged many protests in that regard. Does the DPP have any concrete demands for the administration so they can pressure Beijing for negotiations on other issues such as membership in the IMF or World Bank?
Tsai: Cross-strait issues concern the public interest, so the KMT should sit down with the opposition party. We can talk about what issues can be placed on the table and when would be the best time to conduct the negotiations. It is important that the ruling and opposition parties reach a consensus.
It took the DPP administration about eight years to form a social consensus on charter flight services and Chinese tourism. The KMT administration must do the same if it wishes to put a new issue on the agenda.
So, it’s not a question of whether the DPP should make any suggestions to the administration but whether the administration is willing to conduct local negotiations.
TT: The DPP administration mapped out several cross-strait policies during its eight years in power. However, the public seemed to think otherwise. What’s your take on that?
Tsai: It isn’t right to say that there was no progress under the DPP administration. The DPP laid the groundwork for charter flight services, “small three links” and Chinese tourism.
I don’t think the KMT could be so bold as to do what we did if it had won the presidential election in 2000. We opened the “small three links” and charter flights. We substantially amended the Act Governing Relations between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) to accommodate further liberalization in cross-strait relations.
Some may be unhappy with the progress we made, but in a democracy, the government cannot relax cross-strait policy simply because it wants to. It must take the feelings of the people into consideration. I hope the KMT government has learned its lesson from the public displeasure over its decision to increase fuel prices.
TT: You just mentioned that taking public feeling into consideration is important. The public is unhappy with the way the Cabinet handled commodities and fuel price hikes. Does the DPP have any plan to take the issue to the streets?
Tsai: Some people have told me that the government seems to be against the people. So what can the DPP do? Two things. First, we can remind the administration about things that they neglect, and we can tell them that we care about what the public think. Second, we can listen to the public and help them have their voices heard.
If the public is really unhappy with the administration, the DPP does not need to organize a demonstration as the people will take to the streets on their own initiative. People take to the street because they are disappointed with the government and think the government does not listen to them. We don’t want to see the KMT become such a government because we’re in the same boat. There is no use for the DPP to organize a protest if the people do not want to. In any case, the DPP will stand together with the people.
TT: What do you think of President Ma’s recent talk about the model of “one Germany, two states”?
Tsai: We are worried that he’s more focused on the “roof” rather than the “two separate houses” underneath. We prefer to see the owners of the two houses work together to build a roof rather than the other way around. It is important to be clear about who owns each house.
Such talk may be an improvement for Ma, but not a significant one. It poses a great danger if he puts more emphasis on the roof than on the two separate houses.
TT: The KMT administration is generally known for its pro-China attitude. Do you think there’s a blind spot in harboring that attitude?
Tsai: They assume that Taiwan’s economy will improve if the country develops a closer relationship with China. There is no reason for us to put a roadblock on the administration’s effort to improve cross-strait relations, but to pin the country’s economy on China, you can call it a blind spot, if you will.
TT: China is big and its influence is growing, while Taiwan is small in comparison. What do you think is Taiwan’s leverage? What is Taiwan’s bargaining chip?
Tsai: First, we must have sufficient defense capability. Second, because Taiwan is very small, unity is key and it is very important to form a consensus. Third, Taiwan’s democracy must be developed healthily, so the international community will be willing to help us advance our agenda and maintain balance in the Taiwan Strait.
Finally, and most importantly, national leaders must be able to create common interests with other countries. It will require a competent national security team to do the job, including the National Security Council and the National Security Bureau. Such experts are crucial but unfortunately scarce.
TT: The DPP won much praise for its efforts to strengthen Taiwan-centered consciousness during its eight years in power, but it was also heavily criticized for being impractical and inflexible. What are your thoughts on that?
Tsai: The country was still in a transitional phase when the DPP was in power. Over the eight years, the DPP engaged in a social movement to secure Taiwan’s sovereignty, but some complained that the president should not have done that and that the administration should have acted more reasonably. One must not forget, however, that the social transformation is not yet complete, although some progress was made.
We do not expect the KMT administration to make more progress on the sovereignty issue, but we hope it doesn’t backtrack because we paid a high price over the past eight years to get the country this far.
TT: On next year’s local chief elections, some have expressed doubts about your ability to lead the party to victory at the polls because you don’t have campaign experience. What would you say to your critics?
Tsai: I may not have much experience in elections, but it is also an issue whether those who do have experience are relevant to winning next year’s elections.
Over the years, we have come to realize one thing: To win an election, the image of the party and public trust in the party are important. The party’s recent election defeats have borne out this theory.
The main tasks of the party leader are to reclaim public trust in the party and to reshape the party’s image.
As for mapping campaign strategies and mobilizing supporters, the party has many experts in these areas and it is important to put the right people in the right place. It is equally important that the party is united and determined to win the elections.
That is why I have formed an election strategy task force. The convener is very experienced and he will work with his team members, who are seasoned strategists, to map out campaign strategies and implement them.
TT: You mentioned the importance of party image and party unity, but it is also true that the DPP has very weak connections with grassroots supporters.
Tsai: That is correct. That’s because we are a younger party, compared with the KMT, and we are not like the KMT, which has spent 50 or 60 years developing its relationship with grassroots supporters.
The rise of the DPP came from public identification with our ideals and not the party’s close relationship with the public on a local level. A party like that can be easily defeated if its image is tarnished and people lose their confidence. That’s also why the DPP has risen so fast and fallen as swiftly.
To expand our grassroots support, we will strengthen our services and rationally communicate our ideals to the public. As for funding their activities or bus tours or giving red envelopes on special occasions, it’s not because we are reluctant but because we don’t have many resources to do so.
Listen to the voice
deal behind green cards
By Li Kuang-Chun李廣均
Sunday, Jun 15, 2008, Page 8
For anyone wanting to understand Taiwan’s postwar history, politics and social development, the green card controversy — which has been going on for more than six months — provides an excellent introduction. However, for those legislators and officials involved in the storm, the green card issue is an unbearable burden. No matter how they respond, they’re unable to justify themselves and only incite more questioning on their allegiance and competence. Why are their responses so weak?
Is possession of a green card really directly related to the question of loyalty or other ethical concerns?
Many Taiwanese who have resided in the US long-term — both pan-blues and pan-greens — have permanent US residency or even US citizenship, but they frequently return to Taiwan to participate in demonstrations and election campaigns to show their support both in person and financially. Nobody doubts their allegiance to the country. On the other hand, not having permanent residency in a foreign country does not necessarily imply loyalty to Taiwan or guarantee that a person would not do anything to let the country down. Some people don’t even have a clue about what a green card is. So why are the officials involved trying to keep a low profile?
The key lies in the social qualifications for obtaining — or attempting to obtain — a green card. It is the difference in opportunity structure — between who has the opportunity or connections to acquire a green card and who doesn’t. To be more explicit, the green card phenomenon itself demonstrates the differences in social stratification, and such differences must be understood through the history and political situation of postwar Taiwan.
In that era of unrest, people with connections would try to find a “lifebelt” to escape if they needed to, and applying for permanent residency in the US or Canada were among the most common choices.
In the past, we had the slogan, “Study at National Taiwan University and then go to the US.” Nowadays, many people, including doctors, lawyers, news anchors and professors, choose to give birth to their children overseas and political figures tend to travel abroad to relax. Government officials “naturally” arrange for their retirement and hold family reunions overseas. This once again proves that the green card phenomenon is a manifestation of social class differences and a sign of social class migration following the Chinese Civil War.
It is hard for legislators and officials involved in the controversy to make the public understand the atmosphere of postwar unrest, but it is even more difficult for them to admit the advantages of their social status and why they meet the requirements for a green card. The political elite always like to say that they will share pleasure and pain with the nation and they love to act personable toward the public to improve their moral image. Still, when faced with the green card controversy, how can they justify themselves and admit that they have used their social standing to prepare a way out? How can they ask the public to believe such an elite class could also be humble? This is why the green card issue is such an unbearable burden for them and why most of them choose to keep a low profile when the issue comes up.
But the more low-key they are, the more intense the barrage of questions from the opposition. The green card issue has not only become a focus point in talk shows, it also continues to accumulate more and more political potential. Especially following the recent hikes in fuel, electricity and commodity prices, the hardest-hit groups belong to the lower middle class — like taxi drivers and farmers — and are the most unlikely to acquire a green card. Thus they can identify with the opposition’s criticism and questions. In other words, the attack on green cards seems to be about questioning the loyalty of individual legislators and officials, but in reality it is a political battle about class identification.
It’s not my intention to denounce those legislators and officials who apply for green cards for themselves and their family. Despite their class advantages, they make the same decisions that many people would if they had the opportunity. It’s human nature to prepare an escape route to be able to get out in time of disaster. But if people with such an escape route insist on telling those who don’t have one that they will be with them to the very end, the question becomes one of ethics and credibility. What the unbearable burden of the green card shows is a very peculiar phenomenon created by the collision of Taiwan’s postwar history and class differences.
But some introspection into the green card phenomenon can provide a turning point for Taiwan to step out of its historical fatalism and walk toward shared peace and prosperity. We can choose to continue to ridicule the ethical flaws and questionable loyalty of legislators and government officials, or we could use the issue to focus on how to make Taiwan safer, and how to make sure that Taiwanese feel secure without having to apply for a green card.
If the pan-blue political elite can admit their class advantages and human needs during these insecure times while showing loyalty to Taiwan with specific political achievements, time itself will prove everything, and the public will forgive them for their green cards. The opposition’s questions are certainly sensible, but if the Democratic Progressive Party hopes to have another opportunity to rule the country in four years, it has to look at the green card phenomenon from a more comprehensive historical perspective. If the party wants to avoid traveling down a road of politics based on hate and jealousy, it should spend more time considering the human side in its fight to support different social classes and ethnic groups.
Li Kuang-chun is an assistant professor in the Graduate Institute of Law and Government at National Central University.
Listen to the voice
our future in hands of Beijing
By Chiang Huang-Chih
Sunday, Jun 15, 2008, Page 8
Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has finally publicly addressed the issue of Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, saying that “after cross-strait consultations resume, issues of concern to Taiwanese on participation in international organizations will be discussed, with priority given to participation in WHO activities.”
This seems to present an opportunity for Taiwan, while also affirming an approach that places cross-strait relations before diplomatic relations.
However, without diplomacy, there can be no cross-strait relations. A look at international events and organizations in which Taiwan participates shows that every accomplishment has been achieved in the face of Chinese opposition. The same applies to diplomatic ties.
The nation’s WTO membership met with Chinese opposition from the outset. Taiwan had to negotiate with each individual member state. Thanks to some previous diplomatic achievements, they all supported the bid. As a result of its fierce opposition, China came under pressure from all sides. This pressure and Taiwan’s diplomatic leverage forced China to show “goodwill.”
Aside from economic and trade organizations, the same applies to membership in regional fishery organizations. Even if China had shown goodwill from the start, Taiwan couldn’t have obtained its near-equal participation in such organizations without extended diplomatic effort. Such progress and achievements should be remembered by any national leader.
The biggest hindrance to Taiwan’s international participation is China. If it supported Taiwan, or even refrained from aggressively opposing it, everything would be much easier. However, if Taiwan’s international space must first be discussed in cross-strait negotiations, it will not be able to choose or decide on any issues related to international participation. The best-case scenario is that the issues would be decided by both Taiwan and China; while at worst they would be decided by China alone. How, then, would Taiwan differ from Hong Kong or Macau?
International participation often involves Taiwan’s particular interests, in which China has no right to intervene. Even the “caring” approval of Beijing does not necessarily mean that Taiwan will be able to easily obtain its goals. China is not a signatory to the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, for example, which does not involve concrete Chinese interests. China has therefore never actively intervened in its technical issues. Still, other signatories to the convention refuse to accept Taiwan as an equal, resulting in unfair distribution of catch quotas and boycotts from countries for political and technical reasons. Taiwan must fight every step of the way.
Cross-strait relations is an important issue that must be dealt with. China has delivered “goodwill” messages on Taiwan’s WHO membership bid, but it would be premature and unwise to examine and discuss Taiwan’s diplomatic issues within a cross-strait framework because of this single case.
If Taiwan’s international participation should be decided by China, our so-called “international space” would be nothing more than a “cage” within a “one China” framework, even if the “motherland” was considering the interests of Taiwanese. Hong Kong and Macau are good examples: Would Taiwanese be happy to see that happen here?
If Taiwan gave up its diplomatic efforts and failed to accumulate bargaining chips on the international space issue, urgent negotiations with China on diplomatic issues and the hope for seeking international space and dignity with China’s goodwill would be nothing but capitulation, or a plea for mercy.
Chiang Huang-chih is an associate professor at National Taiwan University’s College of Law.
Listen to the voice
Taiwan shares the love
Foreigners who started out
saving the occasional dog off the street have now moved on to running an
officially recognized charity that attracts Taiwanese volunteers with its
emphasis on improving animal welfare through education
By Ian Bartholomew
Sunday, Jun 15, 2008, Page 13
Scenes from Animal Taiwan's rescue center in Shilin. The charity's volunteers believe education is the best way toward creating a better environment for animals in Taiwan.
The two-story house down a rough turnoff from a side road in Taipei’s Shilin District looks ordinary enough, until you take in the tall wire fence and double gate with a clearing area in between. The sound of dogs barking announces that I have arrived at the right place — the Animals Taiwan rescue center.
When I’d called to make an appointment, Sean McCormack, the founder of this animal rescue operation, said I would not find their address posted on their otherwise highly informative Web site. “If we did that, we would find people dumping unwanted dogs here,” he said.
Earlier this month, Animals Taiwan was granted NPO, or non-profit organization, status by Taiwan’s government. Becoming an officially recognized charity opens many doors that had been closed to the organization before, and considerably enhances its ability to raise funds. But it will also bring its share of challenges.
Speaking to the Taipei Times in the weeks before the situation became official, Lisa Milne, an English teacher who also acts as treasurer to the organization, said: “It will make a lot of difference — for one thing, everything will have to be done by the book. There may be some things that we won’t be able to do [anymore].”
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANIMALS TAIWAN
The point of departure for Animals Taiwan, as with other animal rescue organizations around Taiwan such as Taichung Paws and Bark, a group based in Kaohsiung, is a love of animals and a desire to not see them destroyed. This has sometimes put them outside official sanction, especially in their emphasis on CNR (catch, neuter, return), in which animals are neutered and put back onto the street. This idea is only gradually catching on among Taiwan’s official animal welfare organizations. (CNR is now accepted practice for stray cats, but is technically illegal for stray dogs.)
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANIMALS TAIWAN
For many years, foreigners, either as individuals or groups, have sought to contribute to animal welfare in Taiwan without stepping on too many toes. Animals Taiwan is the first of these organizations, notable because they have significant foreigner participation, to seek and receive NPO status. As McCormack and other foreigners interviewed for this story were all keen to emphasize, they constitute only a tiny fraction of people, both among government organizations and private individuals, who care deeply about animal welfare in Taiwan.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANIMALS TAIWAN
“But we know from speaking with other organizations here that we still need to raise standards here [in Taiwan]. Many of the people involved in animal welfare here haven’t got an international perspective, an idea of what they could be achieving. ... They know they’ve got a problem and they are trying to fix it the best way they know how, but there are better ways of doing it. We are able to get more international interest because we are half expat, half local, and we know the [international] standards we should be aiming for,” McCormack said.
|On the Net|
|Animals Taiwan: animalstaiwan.org
Taichung Paws: www.taichungpaws.org
Taipei Municipal Animal Shelter: www.tapv.org.tw
“A lot of us come from countries [where] the stray population isn’t what it is in Taiwan, and a lot of us have worked for organizations outside Taiwan, and so we can say, look, this has been done in this country or that country, and it worked, so we want to bring it in and help this country,” Milne said.
Taiwan has received a lot of bad press over the years because of its problem with abandoned pets, but now a considerable network of shelters has been established around the country. Unfortunately, the environment of these shelters is often less than ideal.
The Taipei Municipal Animal Shelter (台北市立動物之家) in Neihu is a fine example of what the government is trying to achieve. Here, a great effort is made to find homes for strays. But its very location — between the Neihu garbage incinerator and a garbage dump — speaks volumes about a lingering attitude in government toward unwanted animals.
Signs describing the various animals in glowing terms hang above the cages in this huge hanger-like shelter. Many of the cages are in poor repair, with badly rusted fittings. Chinese-language animal-adoption blogs warn of the high incidence of disease in animals taken from the shelters because of the confined environment, an issue echoed by McCormack. Above all, there is the death-row atmosphere, for many of these animals only have a small window of opportunity before they are destroyed to make room for new arrivals.
This is part of the reason why from its inception, McCormack has rejected the idea of Animals Taiwan as an animal shelter and insists on its role as a rescue center. The center only takes in animals who are likely to die without intervention.
McCormack has been quoted in numerous interviews talking about the leaky pipe phenomenon of animal care in Taiwan. He referred to the “loving mothers” (愛心媽媽) who do wonderful work in housing stray dogs. “The stray problem is like a leaky pipe,” he said. “Drip, drip, drip. If you build a shelter under this drip, great, you’ll catch a lot of drips. But sooner or later it’s going to fill up and then it’s going to overflow. You have exactly the same problem, and all your resources are tied up in this shelter.”
Compared to what these “loving mothers” can do, McCormack said that Animals Taiwan had taken in and re-homed roughly 450 animals since it was established. Currently, he said, Animals Taiwan manages to re-home about nine animals a month. Of the animals it has taken in, most of whom have been in dire physical condition, only six have had to be put down.
This is just a drop in the bucket of Taiwan’s 2,768,086 strays that were estimated to be on the streets in 2004, according to figures compiled by the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (動植物防疫檢疫局). McCormack recognizes this and says that now that the organization has government recognition, he hopes it can shift direction and play a larger role in public education.
Fei Chang-yung (費昌勇), a professor of veterinary science at National Taiwan University and an authority on animal rights, said in a telephone interview in April that any shift in Taiwan’s animal welfare policy will be driven by education. “At the current time, if we want to promote animal welfare [in Taiwan], the concept of animal rights and animal welfare must be present among ordinary people. ... The government is not able to change the way people think. It will follow mainstream opinion. ... If an organization like Animals Taiwan is able to change the way people think, then they will be taking a step to changing government policy,” he said.
“Now that we have become legal, we are not going to expand into more rescues,” McCormack said. “We are going to buy a new place; it’s going to be called an education center. It will be similar to what we have now, with around 50 dogs ... we will continue with rescuing, because that’s a very big publicity thing, and we love doing it, because we can’t just ignore the ones that we see ... but it will primarily be an education center, so people can come to a nice classroom to take part in events on different topics such as responsible pet care or how to behave around a stray dog.”
McCormack said Animals Taiwan has plans to find a more visible location, though he recognized this would lead to problems with the dumping of unwanted animals, something that organization has avoided until now through its relatively low profile.
“Even here, we’ve had people dumping their dogs thinking it is our responsibility. We have to make a very brave decision not to take them in, because if we did the floodgates would open. ... We do not want to encourage people to give up responsibility for their animals. ... If we relieve people of their responsibility, we have not helped the animal, and we are not helping other animals,” McCormack said.